Saturday, January 31, 2015

Define Normal, Honestly

So after the seismic announcement changing the counterproductive official policy of the United States towards Cuba, the earth actually didn't crumble (in most places!).  What stubbornly remains in tact is the failure, so far, of the United States to legislatively give up the intention of causing regime change in Havana.  Now given the political opportunity to do so, by which I mean the powerful interest groups coincidentally being lined up with public opinion, I think it very well may be erased.  That certainly wouldn't prevent the powerful actors that aren't always in plain view from continuing their efforts in more discreet ways so what would be the point of being so outright offensive?!

The giant step of official recognition has already been made and it will be etched in stone once each nation has replaced their respective Interests Sections with Embassies.  Much has been made about the counties beginning the process of normalizing relations and rightfully so.  And such a situation would be possible only if each country actually decides to have respect as a foundation of the relationship.  This is the first time that the United States has announced publicly this type of desire so it sort of binds itself to trying.  Given the history of aggression towards the island dating back to its independence from Spain, it seems pretty hard to believe, but we don't have crystal balls.

The US media has perpetuated a particular narrative that goes some thing like this: every time the US has reached out to the Cuban government, the Cuban government has created a situation to prevent mending relations.  Basically we are supposed to be believing that the government of Cuba prefers the blockade, or embargo, remains in place so it has something to blame for its problems.  Actually, if the US media is supposed to be honest and fair, then laziness can be the only reason for telling this story.  It would have been noticed long ago that what the Cuban government blames on US is policy IS the results of US policy. US law does prevent the sale of numerous medical devices to benefit the Cuban people.  US law does prevent the global financial institutions from handling Cuban transactions in a ways that would be considered as remotely usual.  The powerful and very real threat of huge fines keeps institutions from engaging many from even trying.  These are just some examples that would easily prove both that the complaints by Cuban officials have made are legitimate and that they would prefer that the embargo would be eliminated should be believed completely.

The new claim or half-baked question being raised in the media, something that apparently follows the age old story about roadblocks erected by the Cuban government have to do with the speech made by Raul Castro this week at the meeting of CELAC.  He is said to have made demands that would prevent normalization of relations.  What he said was actually exactly what has been said since Cuba has acted independently in 1959, something that hadn't been fully realized since ceasing to be a colony of Spain.  A valid question would be "how much independence was exercised when its constitution was first written under US military occupation?"  And the same question can be posed when considering the treaty that allowed Guantanamo Bay to remain occupied by US military. It doesn't take much thought to realize that those decisions were made to satisfy US interests much more than anything that would benefit Cuba.  There are international laws that can call into question the validity of that treaty as well as certain uses of the Guantanamo base that also may invalidate the agreement.

Should the United States keep occupy another nation's territory, especially if the nation demands that it leaves? Of course not and it it very reasonable for the end of the Guantanamo occupation to be necessary for truly normal relations to exist. But Raul Castro himself stated that working towards that end wouldn't impede the steps being taken currently between the US and Cuban governments. So it shouldn't be seen as a roadblock.  Besides, how would we have to redefine the word normal to coincide with a relationship in which one country continues to try and impose its will on the other?  I'd go as far as saying the largest roadblock to normalization may ultimately be the US attitude which has shown so far to be almost inflexible.

We need to keep these types of things in mind and ask ourselves who and what is reasonable. And we should't compromise language any more than we have and know what normalization should be..  

Friday, January 16, 2015

What Would Be Welcomed

Now that the most sweeping changes in restrictive policies regarding Cuba have been made official, it's important that we pay close attention to what is going on. Although all of rhe decisions made by President Obama are correct and completely justified, one thing needs to not be overlooked. In announcing the changes the president, along with a sizeable portion of the press, were clear in their explanation of the shift; the policies didn't achieve the goal. What was the goal? Reversing the Cuban revolution itself and re-asserting US dominance of Cuba.

The job of the US government is not to dictate to other nations, each just as sovereign as the other, what or how a government should be. This particular "goal" must be denounced and any uninvited interference in Cuba by the United States should not be something that anyone in the United States should support. The reverse wouldn't be tolerated and has never been even attempted.

This is not a secret. Domination of the island has been contemplated for way more than a century by politicians in Washington, sometimes in the past openly. Now fancy catch phrases are used such as "expanding democracy" and "supporting human rights".

As the politicians in our capital expand "freedom" around the world, actual lives are made worse. Just look at some recent "successes" in Libya or in Iraq. It seems that an appearance of democratic happenings regardless of its credibility suffices.

Tall tales of history claim that the United States help Cuba gain her independence from Spain. The treaty of Paris actually handed control over the island to the US and away from Spain. The newly "independent" Cuba's constitution was written basically under military occupation. In 1906 the then president T. Roosevelt signed an executive order giving the Secretary of War, Taft, the role of provisional governor of Cuba and again occupied the island. The fact that this happened is obvious evidence that independence wasn't truly achieved.

Over time certain treaties were changed allowing more independence but until 1959, a government of Cuba never did exercise actual independence with the the main goal of putting the Cuban people first. That was the only "offense" that was committed by the government of Cuba. And for that the punishment of the last half century is explained.

Whether a person is of the mind that the US has some sort of right to intervention or not,  as Obama said the policy pursued was fruitless.  Realizing this was politically easy given the desire of American companies to do business with the island. What Obama hasn't renounced is an intention to attempt to change the government on the island. He likely prefers to allow the business opportunities to be pleased while Washington searches for a new tactic for an old goal.

We can debate how free a people may be until the end of time, faults can be found, and improvements can be made everywhere. But we need to understand that the new language being used by our politicians is to justify the policy change as well as it will be used to justify continued interference. Congress needs to deal the actual death blow to the outdated legal restrictions written in to our laws.  But we need to demand from our own government a respect for the sovereignty of our neighbor. That is the true change that will be most welcomed if it is to come.